The Politics of Finger Pointing

“We just want to remind people, for those who don’t know what is secularism, secularism doesn’t mean being against God, secularism is just the separation between religion and state, secularism makes all citizens equal before the law with the same rights, secularism leads us from confessionalism to citizenship.”

(Closing remarks on satirical show “CHI NN” on Lebanese Al Jadeed TV, February 4, 2013)

With raging discussions on a new electoral law and civil marriage in recent weeks, the role of religion has once again been brought to the mainstream political debate. The role of religion in politics and our daily lives is certainly nothing new in Lebanon. But the fact that both the electoral law and civil marriage attempt to further (if that is even possible) entrench religion (and its men) in the public sphere, when it should be anything but present, has awoken many people from their socio-political slumber. I myself have also gotten to thinking about my theories of what I like to call Lebanon’s democratic theocracy and the increasing intrusiveness of religious leaders in the daily business of the common man/woman.

It is this ever so visible presence of men of religion in our daily lives that I have thought about the most. We have become so accustomed to seeing Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah regularly,Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah a religious, military and political leader all rolled into one, that it looked like the presence of so many other religious leaders in our morning papers and evening news was normal. But it wasn’t,  isn’t and shouldn’t be. One could even argue that the many religious  leaders – really aspiring political leaders in disguise under the cover of their cloaks and turbans –  came as a reaction to Nasrallah himself.  But that could be the subject of an entire blog post altogether…

I do not know about you, Patriarch Beshara Raibut all this finger-pointing at me doesn’t do them any favors either. It doesn’t take a body language expert to translate all the finger-pointing, which may be used to emphasize speech.  Mufti Rashid QabbaniBut it is also used to convey threats, and cannot be disassociated from a mixture of aggression, confrontation, dictatorial attitude and arrogance by the finger pointer. Humor is sometimes used to get the message across, but only as a way to cover a lot of anger that almost always underlies the main message of most of their religious and political discourse.

I do not know about you, Sheikh Ahmad Al Assirbut my parents rarely, if ever, do that to me, or at least not any more. Why should I then accept such arrogance from someone who I barely know, I have done no harm to, in whose beliefs I barely subscribe to, but whose actions affect me whether I like it or not?

I think it is time we stop watching, listening, and repeating after them, if only in what relates to the public, political and social spheres.  Whatever you want or do not want to believe is your own personal choice, to be exercised in the privacy of your own home.  But when it comes to the public sphere, we are all concerned.  It is time for us to start pointing our fingers back at them. Maybe then, only then, will we be one step away from confessionalism and one step closer to citizenship…

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